food · travel

Weekend Bites and Hikes

“What a glorious greeting the sun gives the mountains”

– John Muir

Sunrise at Leah Lake in Otto, NC

Something Alex and I are big on is taking random weekends out to the mountains. We’ve been doing it for about four or five years now and try to go out every three months or so. It’s really important for us to get away from the madness of city life and just take time together. During our weeks, he’s in while I’m out and vice versa, so these weekends help us slow down and rejuvenate as a couple. It keeps our relationship strong, I’m sure of it. Living here in Atlanta, means we have easy access to a multitude of mountain towns, but our personal favorite area to visit is Western North Carolina. From Asheville to Cherokee, we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the towns that surround the Great Smoky Mountains.

We went to Asheville for the first time together on our “I’m going to taste everything put in front of me” New Years trip. If you have never been, you’re missing out. It’s an incredible little city tucked into the mountains and has absolutely gorgeous views. Fun fact: I’ve never been to Asheville outside of winter or fall. No idea why, it just NEVER works out that way. Apparently, for as much as I complain about it, I really like freezing my ass off in higher altitudes.

Honestly, we go to Asheville for Mayfel’s. Everyone’s heard of Tupelo Honey and the breakfast they advertise, but Mayfel’s is where it’s at for us. We stumbled upon it on our way to Tupelo’s, but hit the “It’ll be an hour” wait. I’m still really glad we detoured next door. The food was fantastic on all levels. AND THEY HAVE BEIGNETS.

Beignets at Mayfel’s

If you have the option, take the outdoor seating. Chances are you’ll be seated quicker. I’ve never actually seen the inside of the restaurant. The location is close to a parking garage, don’t bother attempting to find street parking. It’s not worth the hassle. Plus, there’s plenty of shops and other things to see in walking distance. It’s a busy area and you’re going to need to walk after eating. Trust me.

Brunching! ft. A Very Patient and Hungry Alex

About thirty minutes from Asheville is the mountain town of Waynesville. If you’re willing, take the Blue Ridge Parkway down. It’s a wonderful trip. We have spent so many weekends enjoying all that Waynesville has to offer. Typically when we go, we stay at the Waynesville Inn. It’s a golf and spa resort that we just adore. The place originally opened in the 20s and it’s definitely obvious in the main lodge. Alex and I prefer the mountain view rooms, for obvious reasons. Side Note: If you have a tall travel partner or you are tall, keep in mind the rooms in the main lodge have very awkwardly placed toilets. Alex’s knees became friends with the wall, that’s all I’m saying.

The View from the Mountain Rooms
Downtown Waynesville, NC

Waynesville is super quaint and a great escape. There’s a downtown with shopping, restaurants, and good Lord..the view. Just take a glance around and you realize you’re surrounded by the beauty that is the Smoky Mountains. If you’ve been out on the Blue Ridge Parkway or hiking all day, make sure you stop into town for a bite to eat. Our favorite stops in town are Boojum Brewing and The Sweet Onion. Get the Cuban at Boojum, it’s delicious.

Boojum Brewing in Waynesville, NC (I’m Also Just Noticing the Pun on the Menu)
The Sweet Onion in Waynesville, NC

Now, if you’re up for more after that head over to Cherokee, NC. It’s about another thirty or so minutes from Waynesville, but so damn pretty. It has a beautiful scenic area that sits by the river and there’s plenty of nature trails to explore. However, there’s a little hidden gem that we had no idea existed. On a small island, and I do mean small, there’s a mini bamboo forest. The second you walk in, it feels like you’ve left North Carolina and are on some exotic adventure in the East. I’m not even kidding. Alex at one point said, “I feel like Josh Gates and we’re off on some expedition.” The bamboo pretty much blocked out the noise from around it. We didn’t even know bamboo naturally grows in North Carolina! That alone blew our minds.

If you are passing through, it’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs. The best part is there’s little breaks in the bamboo that meet the river’s edge. So go ahead and dip your feet into the very cold mountain water.

Into the Bamboo. Cherokee, NC
Water’s Edge. Cherokee, NC

All of these areas have plenty of hotels and cabins to stay in. Our new favorite Airbnb is up there in Otto, NC. Absolutely beautiful place called Leah Lake, look it up and stay if you’re heading into the area. The host is fantastic. There’s all sorts of art from around the world in the home, and you overlook a private fishing pond. The sunrises you’ll see are incredible (if you’re willing to wake up that early).

Dawn at Leah Lake. Otto, NC

So there you have it, our favorite mountain towns! If you have any suggestions for additional places to eat, stay, or things to do (which I barely covered on, I’m mostly hungry), please leave a comment below! As usual, travel well and travel often!

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